Chicago Blackhawks best too good for Ducks, top Anaheim 2-0

Hawks best too good for Ducks, top Anaheim 2-0

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Wednesday night the Chicago Blackhawks outplayed the Anaheim Ducks and recorded a 2-0 victory. Fortunately for the Hawks, Corey Crawford is playing better than any of the goaltenders selected for Team Canada.

Crawford was excellent and his teammates were dialed in and had a complete performance. Crawford picked up his first shutout of the season and the Blackhawks now trail the Ducks by only one point for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Joel Quenneville gets criticized by some for trying to stick with certain matchups during games. On the road, Quenneville doesn't have the final line change and Wednesday night he played the hand that was dealt him.

In my view if the Hawks top line can stay even with the Ducks big line it's an edge for Chicago. Wednesday night they did better than stay even while squaring off.

The Ducks top guns, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were held without a point and the Hawks number one line was productive. Jonathan Toews scored a goal, Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist while Patrick Sharp chipped in with a helper.

The Ducks have improved their overall depth and are a solid club, but on paper the advantage still lies with the Blackhawks. The Chicago stars were good and the supporting cast shined in Anaheim.

For my money Marcus Kruger is the best fourth line center in the NHL. Kruger had one of his better games of the season Wednesday without scoring a point. Kruger recorded 5:31 of ice time on the penalty kill and was a key reason the Ducks power play was held scoreless in all five attempts. Kruger also recorded three blocked shots.

Michal Rozsival had his best game of the season and was paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Johnny Oduya was out with a lower body injury and Rozsival really stepped up his play and was credited with a game high six blocks. Rozsival's performance was similar to the way he played in last season's playoffs.

Hjalmarsson has to be credited as well because he didn't miss a beat without his usual partner. Hjalmarsson also seamlessly switched from his normal right defensive position to the left side.

Another defender who came up big was Nick Leddy who chipped in with a solid 15:31 of ice time. Leddy is looking more confident and had two shots and recorded two hits.

In total all the Chicago defensemen were active and they were also a big reason the Hawks killed off the Ducks 9:21 of power play time. The Blackhawks also doubled up on blocked shots, 22-11.

Chicago is a better team when the third line can play well defensively and create scoring chances. Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad had a good amount of offensive zone time. Their only blemish was the two bad penalties Shaw picked up, otherwise the line had an efficient performance.

Brandon Pirri was a healthy scratch and was replaced by Michal Handzus. Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg and Handzus skated together and did not record a point.

In the opening frame the Blackhawks were controlling play and had the better offensive zone time while at even strength. Then they strung together two penalties and Crawford managed to keep the Ducks off the board. During the period, shots were in favor of Anaheim 15-9, but the Ducks had five more shots while on the power play than the Hawks did with the man advantage.

In the middle frame Hossa gave the Hawks the lead with a fine individual effort. The 35-year-old Hossa has been the most consistent forward on both sides of the puck all season. The PK unit shined at the end of the period as they were called on to kill off a double minor by Rozsival for high-sticking.

The Hawks were playing fine while at even strength and Crawford continued to stand tall even while shorthanded.

In the final period the Hawks needed to stay out of the penalty box and they did. Hossa continues to have an amazing season. Versus the Ducks, besides scoring a goal, Hossa had a takeaway which led to Toews scoring with 2:31 remaining.

The Blackhawks have put together a fine road trip as they are 3-0-2 over the last five games.

Crawford has been very good, the third line has come around while fourth line players have more than held their own. The Chicago penalty killing unit has rallied and has allowed only one goal in the last 10 games which included 33 power play attempts.

The last game before the Olympic break happens on Friday night when the Hawks take on the Coyotes. Phoenix lost at home to Dallas Wednesday night, and are 5-4-1 over their last 10 games. The Coyotes are among five teams that are clustered and battling for the final Wild Card spot. Phoenix is in desperation mode and they will be a test for the road weary Hawks.

By recording a win versus the Coyotes, the Blackhawks would go from having a very good West coast swing to having a great road trip.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia and I will be back on Saturday morning.

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